museum-cover240The Museum
by Julian Halls
ISBN 978 0 9805482 0 4

This is a most unfashionable book: it’s funny, it’s well written and constructed — and it has a happy ending.

It’s that rarest of things in an increasingly sad and troubled world: a comic novel, a genre which has almost disappeared under the weight of political correctness, post-modernist claptrap and the self-regarding seriousness of far too many authors.

Julian Halls has created an unlikely assortment of oddball characters — and they’re all people we’ve met or close to it — and placed them in and around a mouldering, half-forgotten regional museum in Tasmania.

The complex main plot concerns the relationships between two same-sex couples, one male, one female, and the whole thing is set in motion by a blowfly; it gets even more bizarre after that, although it’s never incredible—just like real life. Several curious sub-plots emerge and they are skillfully woven into a surprising conclusion.

The story is replete with intrigue, passion and downright skulduggery, as well as the finely observed petty tyrannies and bureaucratic absurdities of life in a museum.

A central theme is that things are never what they seem to be; questions of forgery and authenticity are the mainsprings of the novel, and they apply as much to the people as to the exhibits in the museum.

Halls, author of a well-received collection of short stories, Death of a Drag Queen, has a good ear for dialogue and bitchy banter, as well as the ability to drive an elaborate story along at a cheerful pace.

The Museum will appeal to the general reader as well as to those interested in another of the book’s themes, the need for same-sex marriage to be recognised as being as valid a way of life as any.

Available from bookshops in Tasmania and from The Bookshop in Darlinghurst, Sydney.